UK duo Stanford Road first came to our attention back in August, ahead of the release of their debut single ‘Letters’, and were featured in an ‘Introducing…’ article on the predecessor to this website. In the months that have followed the double-act comprising of Terry ‘Blackjaz’ Muller and Rachael Muller have forged a blossoming career on the UK Country scene. The first leg of their ‘Open Ended 2014’ tour dates seemingly giving them a real opportunity to connect with lovers of the genre in a whole host of UK towns. Stanford Road describe themselves as a ‘true grit songwriting superduo’ which certainly seems to fit the bill, with a pleasing authentically rootsy feel to their music.
Last month saw the release of ‘Open Ended’ the debut EP from Terry & Rachael, available directly from their website and featuring five tracks showcasing their impressive talents. Included on the EP is the previously mentioned first single ‘Letters’, which sounds just as wonderful now as it did earlier in the year. Our original thoughts on ‘Letters’ remain valid, these saw the track described as ‘a fascinating debut release, and an incredibly impressive one at that. With a rich acoustic feel and boasting tight harmonies from the duo, the track has real heart and a feeling of authenticity. Rachael takes lead vocals duties and proves to have a strong and appealing voice, which suits the material perfectly. Lyrically the song carries a great deal more weight than the listener may expect from an introductory offering from a new act, dealing with the long-term impact that an abusive relationship can have on a child who has seen her mother suffer.’
‘So Wrong’ again features the two voices blending wonderfully and a down-home acoustic flavour, but is a joyous three minutes plus of a toe-tapper. Describing an enduring love affair, doubted by those around the couple initially, but which has gone on to prove the naysayers ‘so wrong’. Lighter in tone than the opening track it gives Rachael the opportunity to have a dash more fun with her lead vocals, which feeds through to the listener. Big, throaty electric guitar chords kick driving track (no pun intended!) ‘Independence Highway’ in to life, but the duo wisely keep their harmonies well up in the mix. Joining together for most of the track, occasionally trading solo lines, the two add the required drama to the atmosphere of the song with Terry particularly shining. With its’ powerful ‘on and on‘ refrain and persuasive strumming it sounds tailor-made to ignite the crowd at live shows.
Moving ballad ‘Fools Comfort’ tells of a failing relationship, and the realisation for one of the pairing that ‘your love is a fools comfort, that you let me believe. Nothing but a fools comfort, and its making a fool out of me‘. Wonderfully written and tenderly performed, it is Stanford Road at their very best, packed full of emotion. The final track on the EP is a cover version of ‘Cowgirls Don’t Cry’, a song previously released by fellow duo Brooks and Dunn (their final single release) which also featured Reba McEntire. Stripping the song down to two voices and an acoustic guitar works sublimely, allowing Terry & Rachael to make their own unique mark on an inspired choice of a cover version.
The UK Country scene is currently hitting a rich vein of form, slowly but surely gaining wider recognition spearheaded by a couple of more prominently placed duos. Stanford Road deserve to be added to the list of fresh, upcoming acts re-invigorating homegrown Country music. All of the elements are there – strongly written songs, sumptuous harmonies and a big helping of heart, all of which are clearly displayed throughout their ‘Open Ended’ EP. What Terry & Rachael also have is a sound that makes them stand out from the crowd, that ‘true grit’ they claim to have is there in abundance, grounding their musical style in the tradition of the genre. Stanford Road are at the beginning of a long and rewarding journey in Country music, it makes sense for you to get on board now.